Welcome to the April issue of CRASH. Yes, the price has risen by five pence but we managed to hold it down to 95p for twelve issues which wasn’t bad going what with the rise in material costs, Robin Candy’s salary and the general increase in office cleaning and maintenance bills occasioned by the arrival of Gary Liddon!
To soften the blow a little (it’s not that much of a blow really — a 1.25p a week increase) there’s a whole 24 pages of pullout supplement from Mr C this issue to help you get to grips with the games in your collection. No, CRASH is not going to become a listings magazine (we know you too well to follow that path). Although the PLAYING TIPS SPECIAL is fairly full of listings, we’ve sorted out a deal whereby you can obtain a cassette version of the Playing Tips supplement — without the maps of course. For a special offer price of £1.99 you can save wear and tear on your fingertips. You’ll find a coupon in the supplement if you want to order this tape, or just write to Auntie Aggie in the usual way.
This issue, counting the Playing Tips Supplement, contains around 114 pages of editorial material. Everyone in CRASH Towers, yours truly too, hopes we have now redressed the balance over the Christmas Special which has caused some controversy in the FORUM of late. And we’ve got some respectable goodies planned for future issues, as well.
After the mad rush of the last four issues in which we awarded more Smashes per issue than we have for a long time, if not actually breaking all known CRASH records, things have quietened down a bit. Maybe the games that were meant to come out in time to be Christmas hits, but didn’t, have now all arrived and we’re about to enter into a slightly quieter period as the nights get shorter. Perhaps work for the 128K machine has slowed things down a bit or it’s just taking longer to produce a polished game. Who knows?
There’s still a stack of very promising items just over the horizon, and there’s certainly no shortage of material shortlisted for the next issue. But with the rash of compilations that have suddenly been announced within the last fortnight it’s tempting to wonder whether the games market might be about to shift emphasis from ‘singles’ to ‘albums’.
Argus Press Software are the latest people to jump onto the compilations bandwagon, offering no less than thirty games for £9.95 — that works out at some 33 pence per game. A four-adventure package is on its way from Global, containing a selection of titles that should please Signpost readers, and two charity compilations, one for War on Want and another for the software industry’s Off The Hook appeal will appear shortly. Melbourne House, Activision and Firebird are joining forces to launch their own compilations label which kicks off with some very strong product from their combined back catalogues and will no doubt be used as a vehicle for launching the ‘didn’t quite make it’ games from less well-known programmers in due course. Gremlin Graphics have plans for compilations based on CRASH Smashes, Virgin have done good business with their NOW! games compilations and even if THEY SOLD A MILLION didn’t, first or second time around, it made a solid impact on the market. The list grows longer.
The Soft Aid compilation was last year’s biggest selling title in terms of units sold according to Greg Ingham, type miscaster and sometimes editor of the trade’s newspaper Computer Trade Weekly. The Ethiopian Famine Appeal caught everyone’s imagination, and the worthy cause behind the Soft Aid compilation no doubt had a great deal to do with its penetration of the market. But it looks like purely commercial compilations are here to stay, partly as a result of the high profile achieved by the Soft Aid album of computer hits.
Could ‘albums’ be one way in which the price of software, in real terms, is reduced — a plea Lloyd frequently receives in his post. Or will it result in decreased sales of ‘singles’, a loss in revenue for the people who develop games and a consequent decline in the general standard of games on offer? Heaven forbid, compilations could lead to even higher price tags on new, individual titles which have to pay for themselves on reduced sales before they are compiled into software albums.
Mel Croucher has a lot to say about the state of the games software industry at the moment — some of his words of wisdom are captured in this very magazine. He is not the only person to comment that games are being released to a pattern — the number of original or different products launched is diminishing as companies are forced into corners where programming ability seems to exceed creative aptitude. Arcade copies abound, and telephone lines are buzzing with conversations about who has got the rights for the latest arcade machine up for grabs.
If one company launches a new type of game, then within a few months four or five more versions are bound to appear — some of them worth adding to your collection as the time lag allows the cloning programmers to make technical improvements. But the level of legal wrangling over precious rights to games and games designs has been on the increase, in direct proportion to the decline in new, innovative game ideas.
Maybe the greatly reduced number of small, independent and innovative software houses occasioned by the arrival of large, powerful combines with large marketing budgets has led to a decline in creativity. ‘Derivative, derivative’ Mr Croucher cries pottering off to do his own thing. The games industry could certainly do with a new spark of life. Is the time ripe for a Punk Programming movement?